Ishant Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin both took three wickets as Sri Lanka failed to put even 200 on the board in conditions that didn’t favour the batsmen, but weren’t hostile enough to warrant such a hapless display.
The two teams knew each other inside out, having played themselves 44 times in the last five years. However, that didn’t stop the fans from either side from turning up in wet and chilly conditions at Sophia Gardens. The crowd were entertained throughout, with MS Dhoni coming on to bowl his medium-pacers in seamer-friendly conditions, before a pitch intruder provided some moments of laughter towards the end of the innings.
Earlier, the rain threatened to play a dampener prior to start of play and delayed the start by half an hour. Dhoni had no hesitation giving his bowlers a chance to exploit the conditions after winning the toss. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who had troubled the opening batsmen throughout the tournament with his swing, got to bowl with the new ball first, as expected. And the Uttar Pradesh lad responded in his second over itself as he had Kushal Perera (4) caught at second slip by Suresh Raina.
The amount of vicious swing in either direction that Bhuvneshwar was generating made Dhoni bowl his spearhead for nine overs straight. Bhuvneshwar maintained a flawless line throughout the 54 deliveries he bowled on the go, knowing when to swing the ball away and into the batsman like an veteran pro. He especially troubled Sri Lanka’s left-handers with the away-moving delivery and ended up conceding just 18 runs in his first spell, including two maiden overs.
Meanwhile, Tillakaratne Dilshan pulled something in his leg and retired hurt on 12, further heaping the misery on the Lankans, who failed to get their run-rate past the three-runs-an-over mark until the 29th over of the innings. While that happened, Raina added two more catches to his tally at second slip, including a great diving effort to his right to dismiss the dangerous Lahiru Thirimanne (7) and a simple poucher to send the talismanic Kumar Sangakkara (12) packing. Both wickets were added to Ishant’s tally, who bowled a fuller line than his usual hit-the-deck routine. At 41 for three in 18 overs, Sri Lanka were in some spot of bother.
Former skipper Mahela Jayawardene then combined with current incumbent Angelo Mathews to try and wade Sri Lanka through troubled waters. The duo watchfully went about the proceedings, and innocuously brought the run-rate above three-an-over. They 18 overs for 78 runs unscathed, before the mandatory Batting Powerplay struck again.
The deceptively titled bunch of five overs where the fielding team has to pack men in the circle has a dubious distinction of working in favour for the bowling side rather than the batsmen for whom it was intended to aid. Jayawardene (38) was to lose his wicket in the second over of the Powerplay to the equally deceiving spin of Ravindra Jadeja. The wicket was followed by 16 straight dot balls as India tightened their grip on the game.
Mathews went on to score a half-century — his first since January this year — as the Lankans sauntered on. He was dropped in the deep by, surprisingly, Virat Kohli, before Bhuvneshwar made up for his teammate’s error with an easy catch at cover as Mathews went for the slogs in the death overs.
Dilshan limped back onto the field after Sri Lanka were reduced to 164 for seven with two overs to go. He tried his best to get as many runs as possible for his team, even going for reverse sweeps on one good leg. But the Lankans couldn’t cross the 200-mark, as the Indians walked back to the pavilion a happy bunch for a well-earned break.
Sri Lanka 181 for 8 in 50 overs (Angelo Mathews 51, Mahela Jayawardene 38; Ishant Sharma 3 for 33, Ravichandran Ashwin 3 for 48) vs India.